With its new ‘Interests’ feature, eBay again tries to personalize its marketplace

Remember when eBay bought Hunch in 2011 to improve its personalization technology and attract shoppers based on their interests? Or when  it launched a Pinterest-like tool called Setify in 2012 for creating personalized collections and wishlists? Or when it revamped its mobile apps in 2014 to focus on discovery and interests? Well guess what? Ebay is at it again today, as it’s launching a new shopping experience that – yep, you guessed it – lets online consumers focus on their interests, and experience a more personalized version of eBay.

I feel like I’ve heard this before!

The issue at hand is that eBay is still trying to shake its old reputation of being an auction site – even though bidding only comprised 19 percent of its sales in 2017. People continue to think of it as a secondhand goods marketplace – a place to find collectibles, antiques, or hard-to-find items; not the massive online store connecting buyers and sellers worldwide – though that’s what it has evolved to become.

One could even argue eBay has had a bit of Pinterest envy, as do many other online retailers who can’t figure out why they can’t just lets their customers surf curated inventory and put them into collections, too, in order to make shoppers think their site is the place to “discover new things.” (Hi, ahem, Amazon Interesting Finds.)

eBay Interests

This time around, eBay’s personalization efforts involve a new “Interests” feature.

The tactic is to walk consumers through a customization experience in its mobile app where you manually tap on what sort of things you’re interested in, like “biking” or “boho chic” fashion, for example. This sort of demand for explicit input implies that, despite how much shopping you may or may not have done over the years on eBay, it just doesn’t have enough data on its shoppers to create the ideal personalized storefront.

It’s the equivalent of eBay going, “okay, fine, why don’t you just tell me what your interests are then?”

There’s nothing wrong with that, to be clear.

And it’s not like recommendations are working that well elsewhere either. (Walmart and Amazon still lean heavily on “customers also viewed” and “related to this item” suggestions. And, of course, Amazon continues to think that buying an item once means you’re just really into that thing, even when it’s a toilet seat. So it shows you more of them.)

With eBay’s Interests, you tell it your particular tastes, and it then curates items from its 171 million buyers to create a personalized version of its store, where you can browse collections of a sort related to those interests you indicated across areas like “passions, hobbies and style,” the company says.

Assuming you return to the site regularly, these suggestions will get better in time. But this at least gives eBay a head start on showing you things you may like.

Ebay touts its marketplace advantage as to why shoppers should turn to its site for discovery, instead of major retailers who have their own agendas.

“When it comes to personalization at scale, most retailers merchandise the items that they are trying to sell,” an eBay spokesperson said. “As an agnostic platform, eBay Interests helps sort through the 1 billion items available from sellers on eBay to find the items that are most relevant and interesting to you.”

The “interests” feature is live now in the U.S. on iOS and Android. It will roll out to the rest of the world, and to the web and mobile web in the months ahead.

You Might Also Like